Verdicts Of History IV: “a Scandalous, Malicious, And Seditious Libel”

Is it libel to say that the President of the United States tried to seduce his neighbor’s wife—even if he did? Thomas Jefferson tried to gag the venomous editor of upstate New York’s Wasp; Alexander Hamilton argued brilliantly in defense of journalistic candor.

“At a Court of general Sessions of the Peace, holden at Claverack, in and for the county of Columbia, it is presented that Harry Croswell, late of the city of Hudson, in the county of Columbia aforesaid, Printer, being a malicious and seditious man, and of a depraved mind and wicked and diabolical disposition, and also deceitfully, wickedly and maliciously devising, contriving and intending, Thomas Jefferson, Esquire, President of the United States of America, to detract from, scandalize, traduce, and vilify, and to represent him, the said Thomas Jefferson, as unwortRead more »

Our Two Greatest Presidents

Without doubt they were Washington, who walked carefully within the Constitution, and Lincoln, who stretched it as far as he dared

The myth and the reality of American history seldom come within shouting distance of one another. What the average American believes and what the historians would like him to believe about, let us say, the first winter in Plymouth, or the Boston Massacre, or Mrs. Bixby’s five sons, are two quite different things.